Even to this day, if you ask me where I come from my answer will always vary depending on my mood, who you are and what you want from me. Finland was almost everything I knew as a child. In a sense that made me Finnish inside. However, most days when I left the house to go out to do anything, I would encounter several reminders to tell me the contrary. Often I would give up and say: ”Ok then! I’m originally from Nigeria”.
I remember very little from living in Nigeria. I was only 2-4 years old when we first visited the country and so most of my clearer memories are from the age of 10 and upwards when we traveled to Nigeria with my family. Most of our relatives from both my mom and dad’s side live there and so seeing them was an exciting experience. In fact, ’exotic’ and different compared to my everyday life in Finland. The scents, the lively people, the food and the climate made it all feel like another reality!
During our stays we’d visit the local marketplaces and hair saloons accompanied by relatives or family friends. I always had an alien-like feeling during these outings. Without my even speaking, people would stare. Once I opened my mouth to ask or say something, prices would go up and everything would be so much more expensive. My brother and I were usually told to keep quiet in order to avoid any unnecessary attention. Sometimes I failed at being quiet. That led to long conversations with strangers who would pry and ask endless questions. I remember hearing random people later insisting that I was not truly Nigerian. That left me feeling confused because I desperately had the need to belong somewhere. That sense of belonging was hardly to be found from anyone. I grew up somewhere in between two worlds – not really knowing who I was. I felt culturally stuck.
To be continued…